Strictly looking at it in money terms, here’s the gamble that Orlando, Fla., residents can make: They can continue to pay around 10 cents to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for their electricity and hope the price doesn’t go up too much in the coming years.
Or they can back a community solar project, and pay 13 cents per kilowatt-hour -- for the next 25 years.
Factor in the environmental benefits of solar power, and this one seems like a no-brainer.
Yes, community solar did run into a hiccup in California last year, but it will be back to try again there, and that still doesn’t change the fact that it is spreading, from Colorado to Australia and now to Florida. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the solar garden that’s in the works will be just the second in Florida (the utility, on its website, says it’ll be the first).
The beauty of community solar is that it allows people who don’t own a home, or live in an apartment or condo, or maybe are surrounded by shady trees, to go solar. Plus, these “solar gardens,” as they’re often known, come with no upfront costs and maintenance is taken care of as well.
The municipal electricity and water utility Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) is doing this project, with the solar array set to go in at an OUC facility in Gardenia, right off Interstate 4. The 400-kilowatt system will be done canopy-style on the parking lot there, so in addition to generating electricity, it will provide shade for workers and customers -- always a good thing in Florida.
OUC said it expects the array to put out about 540,000 kilowatt-hours a year. That seems to be a modest estimate, with our calculations showing a 15.4 percent capacity factor. Still, it’s “enough energy to meet the power needs of about 40 homes and is the equivalent to avoiding 949,316 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions,” OUC said. (Floridians rely on electricity more than residents in other states, using on average 14,328 kilowatt-hours per year, above the national average of 11,280 kilowatt-hours.)
In the program, residents can subscribe in 1-kilowatt blocks up to 15 kilowatts.